Interview: Adrian Sargeant, British fundraising academic working in the US

The UK voluntary sector is streets ahead of the US in the quality of its direct mail campaigns and enjoys greater public trust because of its regulatory system; but the US takes greater care of its major donors than the UK, and trustees contribute far more to fundraising.

These are some of Adrian Sargeant's conclusions two years after he was lured from his post as professor of nonprofit marketing and fundraising at Bristol Business School to take the world's first endowed chair in fundraising, the Robert F Hartsook professor of fund-raising post at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

On the other side of the Atlantic, he teaches masters degree courses, supervises PhD students and has been researching donor retention, bequests and philanthropic psychology. But he still does some fundraising research in Bristol and teaches at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

He has presented two sessions already at the this year's convention, and concludes at 2.45 this afternoon in the Blenheim suite with Building Donor Loyalty - a Fundraiser's Guide to Creating Lifetime Value.
One of his main themes is that fundraisers on both sides of the Atlantic can learn a lot from each other.

"In the US it is engrained in the culture for fundraisers to develop a relationship with major donors over time," he says. "They think about what donors need from an organisation and how they can better meet expectations to make them feel good about their philanthropy."

He also says trustees of UK charities simply do not have the same
commitment to income generation as is considered normal in the US. He thinks UK charities tend to have trustees with an interest in the cause or an expertise, but no role in fundraising. "If you sit on the board or become a trustee, then you should give to the organisation and be willing to help others give as well," he says.

But Sargeant says UK direct marketing campaigns are way ahead of those in the US: "The quality of the material, the words and the design of the packs is altogether more thoughtful. It is head and shoulders above what is being produced in the US."

The sector here also enjoys a greater level of public trust, according to Sargeant. He attributes part of the scepticism in the US to a series of fraudulent fundraising campaigns after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The situation isn't helped, he says, by the fact that US organisations aren't accountable because there are no regulatory bodies.

"There's only one annual report non-profits have to complete, but to be honest, they lie outright about their fundraising costs," he says. "One of the lessons that should be learnt across the Atlantic is that openness, transparency and honesty are something every non-profit should engage in. With our regulatory bodies, we are way ahead in the UK."

On the future of the UK sector, Sargeant wants to see the Government giving greater financial backing to projects with more practical benefits to fundraising. "Only recently, the Government put money into the new Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, but the projects it is planning bear no relevance to fundraising.

"The centre needs to meet the practical agenda of fundraising, and eventually it will - but for now we are stuck with their initial irrelevant research projects."

Sargeant CV

2006 Robert F Hartsook professor of fundraising, Center on Philanthropy, Indiana University
2005 Adjunct professor of philanthropy, Queensland University of Technology
2001 Professor of non-profit marketing, Bristol Business School
1997 Editor of the International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing
1996 PhD in marketing from the University of Exeter
1993 MBA, Herriot-Watt University

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